On writing

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I hope you are all doing well during this difficult time. My name is Sharony Green. I have been a writer for many years. My career began in journalism at The Miami Herald, a newspaper in Miami, Florida, my hometown. 

I continued working for other newspapers and media companies before returning to graduate school. I am now an Associate Professor of History at the University of Alabama.

Three years ago, I celebrated the 20th anniversary of the publication of my first book, Cuttin’ the Rug Under the Moonlit Sky: Stories and Drawings About a Bunch of Women Named Mae (Doubleday, 1997). Since then I have been published several more times. My latest writing is part of a collection of essays about how women of African descent identify on the basis of race, but also where they are from or where they have been. That essay was prompted by a trip to Iceland. You can download it here.

But back to the Cuttin the Rug, my first book, I had no idea that what started out as words in my journal would become a book that would get mentioned or reviewed in publications like Essence, the Los Angeles Times, and Newsweek, among others.

These days, I mainly write scholarly works, but I have never forgotten the earlier works I wrote for general audiences. I’d like to reach larger audiences again. I sense many people want to hear some of the things I have been researching. A lot of my work addresses these complex times in which we are living.

Along the way, I have met people who have asked me for direction on how to get published because they have something they want to share, too. Sometimes such people want me to read their work. Time won’t permit the latter, but I will share a few thoughts (one person  that I know listened to these thoughts. The result was a published book with Simon & Schuster).

1. Please do not write solely to be published. Write because you have something you want to say, or something your characters want to say, if you’re writing fiction.

2. Read Poets & Writers and other periodicals that address the needs of writers. Sometimes a published piece begins as an essay. Find calls for writings and submit. There are lots of listings in P & W that might prove helpful. Also try Submittable.

3. Don’t be afraid to self-publish. Or do more. It may take a while, but if you have a good piece of writing and especially if it’s published in a journal or online, you might look for an agent. Be sure it’s someone who really hears you. Poets & Writers is a good place for this. I found my first literary agent here.

4. There are many places for more advice, but I can’t think of a more generous website than Terry McMillian’s. Read her advice carefully. Listen to her, too.

5. There are unique experiences you may face. I contributed an essay to an edited collection by Jewel Parker Rhodes filled with advice for black women writers.

6. Writers write.  Writers also make time to write. Learn your process. I especially studied Maya Angelou‘s. Find a writing class or writing group filled with people you trust who can offer feedback.

7. Want to write a screenplay or a television script? There are all sorts of resources out there and even labs in which to participate. One of the best sites to learn about such things is Felecia Pride’s The Create Daily.

8.   Again, I am unable to read manuscripts or give feedback beyond what I have shared. Stay positive. Words, no pun intended, have power. Indeed, one of my dearest sorority sisters recently told me  to “speak what you seek.” I now share that advice with you. I’ll be remembering it, too.